Seeing the flashing lights of a police car in your rearview mirror is never a good feeling. Whether they pulled you over on suspicion of drunk driving or you committed a traffic violation, it’s important to remain calm and remember that there are some things you should take care not to do.
1. Make too many movements
After you pull over and turn off your engine, it might take a few minutes for the officer to reach your window. During that time, refrain from making too many movements in your car. Even if you’re just reaching over to grab your paperwork, a police officer might see your movements and become suspicious of the activity.
Limit your movements to turning down your radio and rolling down your window. Then place both hands on your steering wheel until the officer reaches you and asks for your paperwork and identification.
2. Try to talk your way out
While some people aren’t particularly talkative in a nerve-wracking incident like this, others can’t seem to stop. It’s important that you watch what you say and try not to make up excuses or talk your way out of the situation. You might accidentally admit guilt and criminalize yourself if you overshare.
Sometimes, police officers will ask questions or make statements in order to trick you into admitting guilt. If you answer, make sure you keep them short and to the point. If you aren’t sure how to answer, you can say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, officer, I’m not comfortable answering that question.”
3. Take a field sobriety test without weighing your options
Many people believe they are legally obligated to take a field sobriety test. It can feel wrong to go against an officer’s authority. But it’s generally not actually illegal to refuse to take a field sobriety test. In addition, these tests are notoriously subjective and don’t always give a very accurate representation of one’s current state of intoxication. Even sober drivers can fail sobriety tests due to nerves, age or physical or mental disability.
If you refuse to take a field sobriety test, an officer can still arrest you. However, generally, they can’t use your refusal as evidence against you if your case goes to court.
Protecting your rights
Knowing what to expect from a traffic stop might help ease your nerves should it happen to you. But what’s even more beneficial to know is what not to do. Following these steps could help you protect yourself during the process. And should the traffic stop escalate into an arrest and subsequent court hearing, know that you don’t have to go through it alone.